Well, we've been in Thailand for 5 weeks, and the time has come to move on. We are currently in Chiang Khong, the border town on the Thai side of the Mekong. It took us 6 days to bike here from Chiang Mai via lots of small, interesting towns.
The first stop was Chiang Dao, a village about 80km north of Chiang Mai where we stayed in a bungalow at the base of an impressive looking mountain. When we arrived we visited the Chiang Dao caves where a guide showed us "interesting" rock formations such as a chicken, an elephant's lung, a lotus flower etc. Some of these were a bit dubious, but the chicken was reasonably convincing.
That evening we had a meal cooked by a 17-year old Thai, and it was delicious. We started with banana flower salad with prawns, followed by pork stew and snapper fish (caught from the stream outside our bungalow) with ginger and apricots. Dessert was parfait with a Thai fruit called Lamut - a bit like a pear but caramelly.
Onto Tha Ton the next day - a small town where life revolves around the river. Very pretty town, but we didn't spend long here. Onwards to Mae Salong - a Chinese settlement perched in the hills (a sweaty, steep ride to get there). Full of character, steep streets, and lots of tea. It felt like we'd left Thailand - the restarants all served Chinese food, the shops had Chinese lanterns and Chinese characters over the doorways, and the slopes of the hills were covered in tea plantations.
Mae Sai was our next stop - a town on the Myanmar border and, incidentally, the northern most point in Thailand. It was packed with markets and Burmese and traffic, and all really quite hectic. Our guest house had a view of Myanmar just over the river, and we amused ourselves by waving at the Burmese. This town was also the end of highway one - 890km back to Bangkok.
From Mae Sai we biked to Chiang Saen via the Golden Triangle which was really not as exciting as you might think. Actually it sucked. You could hardly see the confluence of the rivers over the luxury hotels, hordes of tour buses, massive carparks full of junk stalls and the gaudy statues. But it was our first glimpse of the Mekong which was cool - the road from there to Chiang Khong has pretty much followed it. And we had a massage sitting in chairs overlooking the river which was great.
So thats Thailand done. 1861km in total, which took us 109 hours 38min to bike. We will miss Thailand, especially in light of our Laos guidebook which informs us that malaria is rife, there's no hot water, and electricity is from 6pm-10pm. Still, these books tend to look on the dark side of things so we will probably encounter lavish neon lighting displays and hot water cascading from every faucet. Time will tell.
Living in hope, Claudia & Damien